The Run for Raisina & Why Draupadi Murmu’s Win is a Given

Unpacking the rules for presidential elections in India

On 18th July 2022, India voted to elect its 15th President. The results will be declared on 21st July and the new President of India will take charge on 25th July. 

This Presidential election was a contest between Ms. Draupadi Murmu supported by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and Mr. Yashwant Sinha, a candidate supported by the opposition parties. Reportedly, Draupadi Murmu is all set to become the next President of the country. What makes her election certain? Before we answer this, let’s clear the air around a few fundamental and significant questions about the President of India, and how they are elected. 

How is the President of India elected?

The President is the head of the Indian republic who exercises his functions in accordance with the aid and advice tendered by the Council of Ministers (CoM) headed by the Prime Minister (PM).

The election of the President is governed by the Constitution of India, the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential Election Act, 1952 (the Act), and the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential Election Rules, 1974 (1974 Rules). Article 324 of the Constitution read with the Act and 1974 Rules vests the superintendence, direction, and control of the conduct of election of the President in the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Who can contest the Presidential election in India? 

A citizen of India who has attained the age of 35 years, is qualified to be elected as a Member of Lok Sabha, and who doesn’t hold any office of profit can be nominated as a Presidential candidate. The nomination of a candidate must be affirmed by at least fifty electors as proposers and fifty electors as seconders.

The President of India is elected by an electoral college. Who is (and is not) part of this electoral college? The answer to this is as follows: 

Who is included in the electoral college?Who is not included in the electoral college?
Elected members of Lok Sabha
Elected Members of Rajya Sabha
Elected Members of State Legislative Assemblies (MLAs)
Elected Members of the Union Territories of NCT Delhi and Puducherry
Nominated members of Rajya Sabha
Members of the Legislative Councils of States
Elected Members of Legislative Assemblies of other Union Territories 

The Constituent Assembly discussed the possibility of basing the Presidential election on direct adult suffrage. However, Dr. Ambedkar highlighted that a direct election with a large electorate for a nominal figurehead would be practically difficult and unnecessary. So, are the citizens part of the Presidential election process? Yes. Though not directly, citizens participate in the Presidential polls indirectly through their elected representatives, the value of whose votes depend on the population of the concerned State. 

The Presidential election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by a single transferable vote and the voting is by secret ballot. Although each member of the electoral college casts only one vote, interestingly, the value of their votes is not the same or equal. Why is that so? 

What is the maths involved in the election of the President? 

The value of the vote of the MPs and the MLAs differs as it is calculated based on different formulas. The value of votes of elected MLAs is based on their respective State population, whereas, an MP’s vote value is based on the sum total of the value of votes of MLAs of all States. To maintain uniformity in the scale of representation of different states as well as parity between the states as a whole and the union in their representation, the vote value of each member is determined using the formula laid down in Article 55 read along with Rule 30 of 1974 Rules. Thus, the value of the vote of each elector varies for an MP and MLAs of different states.

Value of vote of an MLA = Population of the State ÷ Total no. of seats of elected members in the legislative assembly of the state × 1000
Value of vote of an MP = Total value of votes of all States ÷ Total no. of seats of elected members in both Houses of Parliament

(Formula for determining the value of votes of an MLA and MP. (Note: As per the proviso to the Explanation of Article 55, the population here shall mean the population as ascertained at the 1971 census)

As per Rule 33 read with Para 4 of the Schedule to 1974 Rules, a candidate who received more than half of the total valid votes polled is declared elected. 

What makes Draupadi Murmu’s election as the next President certain?

The Presidential election in India involves complex political statistics. For the 2022 election, the electoral college has 4,809 members (776 MPs and 4,033 MLAs) with a total vote value of 10,86,431. Each MP would represent 700 votes. Similarly, the value of votes of elected MLAs from different states and the two UTs have been declared. For Uttar Pradesh, an MLA would represent 208 votes, whereas an MLA from Sikkim would represent only 7.

The current numbers in the Parliament and the State Assemblies suggest that NDA with approximately 48% of the votes is far ahead of the opposition and its allies with 24% of the votes. Interestingly, as no whip is issued in Presidential elections, cross-voting in support of Murmu cannot be ruled out. The electoral arithmetic after the support from the Biju Janata Dal, Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party, Telugu Desam Party, Shiv Sena, and several others has thus assured Murmu’s comfortable victory as the President of India.

Why does the Presidential election matter? 

Generally, the excitement around the Presidential election dies down soon after the President is actually elected. This happens partly because of the notion that citizens do not have a direct say in this particular electoral process, and partly because the President is considered a ceremonial head (at best). 

However, it must always be borne in mind that being a non-partisan head of the state the President is elected to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Irrespective of who wins the election, the President should, as a matter of principle, stand tall to safeguard constitutional morality independent of the executive’s partisan agendas.

While the President is typically a ceremonial head, they can act independently of the CoM’s advice in some matters. Interestingly, few Presidents in the past have been quite assertive in the exercise of their prerogatives. This has been especially true in cases of  suggesting reconsideration of government actions and legislation, exercising discretion in the appointment of the Prime Minister, ensuring governance during a hung Parliament, and deciding mercy petitions.   

Given the nature of duties that the President may perform, decoding the process of how they are elected becomes crucial for every citizen

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